What do Europeans think, know and expect from the European Union?

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) today organised a press conference in its premises whereby it presented the results of opinion polls on the opinion, knowledge and expectations of Europeans from the European Union, as part of the project “Homo Europeanus – Overcoming the Knowledge Deficit”, implemented with the support of European Commission through the Europe for citizens programme. This project is implemented by 14 organisations, out of which 9 are from EU member states and 3 candidate states, Montenegro being one of them, with CCE as a partner.

By presenting the project within which the research was produced, Svetlana Pešić, CCE Programme associate, pointed out that overall objective is “to promote more knowledge about EU, particularly in the context of the challenges brought by economic crisis, rise of intolerance for immigrants and xenophobia among the citizens of member states and EU candidate states, in order to overcome the democratic deficit”. She emphasised: “Throughout the research, we aimed to test the hypothesis on the influence of appropriate citizenship education, which includes the education about the EU as well, in terms of the level of objectivity in relation to EU-related issues”. Pešić clarified that research was conducted between 15 October and 23 November 2015 in nine member states (Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia and Bulgaria) and three candidate states (Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia) based on online questionnaire and direct surveys with a sample of 6719 respondents, whereby the minimal sample per state amounted 500 respondents stratified by the area of living, gender, age, education and employment status, as well as that the answers were analysed on two levels: European and national. Furthermore, she stated that the research has been comprehensively divided in three stages: concept of Education Europeanea, European Union and Europeans and European Parliament.

Petar Đukanović, CCE programme coordinator, presented the results of research by pointing out that in average every other respondent (49.7%) has had some form of civic education (CE), and 4 out of 10 respondents (42.1) were educated on EU within their formal education “Montenegro is below the average in that segment, but considering that these subjects were integrated in formal system of education several years ago, one should expect an increase in the coming period”, emphasised Đukanović. He further clarified that the results of research indicate that: “more than 2/3 are not satisfied with the education on EU during their schooling”, as well as that there is the influence of certain parameters on the quality of that education, such as the area of living, because the respondents who live in big cities learned more and know more about the EU. “This conveys a direct message to bring the programmes of education on EU closer to target groups outsides of big cities” said Đukanović.

He further stated:

Slovenia (56,6%), Serbia (52,7%) and Montenegro (50,3%) precede in terms of the informal programmes of education on EU. Research shows that in EU member states citizens learn more about the EU through formal programmes, while in candidate state the non-formal programmes dominate.

Citizenship is very important for the majority of citizens, but only 1/3 of them know what citizenship implies. For Montenegrin respondents, citizenship is very important, but they find it hard to define it, even though they demonstrate higher level of tolerance compared to respondents from other states, as well as the knowledge in terms of this issue.

Every third respondent (28.15%) sees him/herself as a citizen of his/her state only, while 2/3 see themselves as both citizens of his/her state and an EU citizen, which indicates that efforts which EU invested in order to strengthen and promote the concept of European citizenship, which does not deny the national expression, were fruitful. Also, high percentage of respondents from candidate states feels like part of the EU, which reflects in their great desire to join the EU and in the fact that they always saw themselves as part of the European concept.

Every other respondent (50.7%) claims that European identity does not deny the national. Surprising is that the majority of respondents from some of the member states disagrees with this statement or does not have an answer, especially in Bulgaria, Spain, Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland, even though they have enough experience from being a member of EU to expect different results.

When it comes to region, youngest EU member state – Croatia has an extremely high percentage of those who believe that European identity is complementary (71%), but that sentiment is above average in Serbia (76,5%) and in Montenegro (58,2%), and somewhat lower in Macedonia (43,5%).

Respondents stated democracy and freedoms (66, 7%), culture (47.15%) as most important elements which form the European identity, followed by Euro as common currency (37.7%) and history (31,1%). Montenegrins value the most common culture, values of democracy and freedoms, Euro, history, geographic connection, but few can affiliate with the slogan “United in diversity”, success of European economy, anthem or flag of the EU.

Respondents from every state included in research, both member or candidate, dominantly believe that they are not sufficiently informed on civil rights of citizens of EU (74%), every fifth thinks that he/she is. Majority of Montenegrin citizens believes that they are not well informed on civil rights of citizens of EU (75.8%).

Only one quarter of respondents on the level of entire sample is familiar with the European Citizen Initiative. Montenegrin, Serbian and Macedonian citizens know little about this institute.

As far as Juncker’s plan is concerned, Montenegrin respondents deem the boost for jobs, economic growth and investments as most important, followed by an area of justice and fundamental rights based on mutual trust, while they are least interested in the agreement with the US and the establishment of a connected digital single market.

When asked about the most significant benefits that derive from the EU enlargement policy
, more than a half of Europeans stated the extension of peace, stability and prosperity, while every other European believes that the accession of a new member states enriches the EU by increasing the cultural diversity, exchange of ideas and better understanding of other nations. Every third respondent believes that membership of Central and Eastern European states led to economic reforms which influenced high economic growth and the increase in the number of opportunities for the employment. Respondents from Montenegro find the process of enlargement important because it resulted with economic growth in Central and Eastern European states, which previously acceded the Union, hence they hope for the same scenario in Montenegro.

32, 6% respondents support Juncker’s plan and think that EU citizens need a five-year long break from the enlargement, while 29,3% does not support the plan, and even 38,1% never heard of it. In general, member states dominantly agree with the plan, while candidate states do not, even though a considerable number of their citizens is uninformed, i.e. has never heard of this plan.

For every second respondent EU presents positive image, while there is small percentage in overall of those who have negative image (9,3%), and significant number of those who have neutral image (34,8%). More than half of the respondents from Montenegro (61,9%) and Macedonia (73%) have positive iamge, while majority in Serbia is neutra about EU (46,4%). Convincing majority of respondents from Montenegro (68,2%) has extremely positive opinion concerning EU membership.
For 41.6% of the respondents, the institution that best represents the EU is European Parliament. For every fifth respondent it is the European Commission, and for 11.3% the European Council. In general, 7 out of 10 respondents from all states feels that they are not well informed about the EP activities (67,8%), while only 17,2% of them stated that they are well informed, and 13% has no clear opinion. The majority of respondents from Montenegro are poorly informed about the activities of EP (70.7%).

Three crucial values that EU should defend as matter of priority, according to the majority of respondents, are human rights protection (67.7%), solidarity between member states (36.6%) and freedom of speech (35.9%). The least of the respondents “voted” for the protection of minorities and abolition of death penalty throughout the world.

Out of the policies, which European Parliament promotes on the EU level, the respondents dominantly favour the fight against poverty and social exclusion (more than 60%). Recent developments definitely influenced the prioritisation of combating terrorism (40.7%). Montenegrin respondents stated the following as key EP priorities: fight against poverty and social exclusion, management of economy, tax and budget and combating terrorism.

Every other respondent in all states did not have the answer as to how the decisions were made in European Parliament. However, the majority of those who had an answer – 38.8%, believe that the decisions are results of the combination of political affiliation of MPs and interest of member states.

Majority of 45,8% respondents would like to see the EP play a more important role than it currently does. Respondents from Montenegro mostly do not have an answer, or it could be said that they are indifferent concerning this issue.

Svetlana Pešić, Programme associate